Need for Fix Our Streets funds varies among districts
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2013
2/15/13 at 2:08 PM
Questions over how to spread Fix Our Streets funds among City Council districts whose funding needs vary widely are expected to loom in the debate over which projects to include in the next rendition of the proposal.
Unlike the first Fix Our Streets package, which identified similar surface repairs for each district, potential priorities for its renewal have varied prices: further repairs for older streets, such as those in midtown, and more expensive widening projects in south Tulsa.
A disproportionate share of the funds may be needed to make headway in south Tulsa, where officials have identified the city's most pressing widening needs. Dividing funds more equally among the council districts could leave south Tulsa with few widening projects.
"That's where I see the first area of potential debate and disagreement popping up," said City Councilor G.T. Bynum, who chairs a committee that is examining potential projects for the proposal.
"Last time, you had some needs where you could divide it up evenly. Now ... it's not necessarily the case that each district has an equal need."
The city's three most-needed widening projects are in south Tulsa's council District 8, while eight of the top 10 widening needs - valued at $142 million - are at or south of 61st Street, a recent Public Works Department report shows.
If those needs are addressed substantially, the City Council may want to level out the funding for council districts where no widening is needed, Bynum said. One solution could be to bolster the cost of resurfacing projects by including bike lanes, he said.
"You could eat up a lot of money on an early (widening) project," he said. "But the flip side is, you don't want the entire city to subsidize the needs of south Tulsa.
"What we want to avoid on this is pitting one part of town against another."
Renewing the 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative would be expected to capture about $800 million - including up to $670 million for streets - in the five years following 2014, when the original initiative is set to expire.
The city aims to choose projects by late spring and would take the proposal to voters in the fall.
Paul Zachary, the city's Engineering Services Department director, said his staff will recommend projects for each City Council district based on an objective ranking of priorities but will not include widening projects unless asked by the council.
The council will ultimately decide whether to adjust the funding shares for each district and would have to balance a desire to continue improving street quality with any desire for widening projects, Zachary said.
During the latest inspection in 2010, five council districts' arterial streets were given scores below 60 on the Pavement Condition Index, which is used by engineers to judge street quality on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the best possible condition.
The first Fix Our Streets package did not include widening projects because officials wanted to concentrate on improving those scores.
District 8 Councilor Phil Lakin said he wants to widen at least five of his district's 36 miles of arterial streets with the next package, arguing that the prevalence of two-lane streets there - currently 23 miles - stifles economic development and is a safety hazard.
But to avoid dominating the package's funding shares, Lakin wants his district's most expensive widening need - Yale Avenue between 81st and 91st streets - to be considered separately.
The estimated $30 million project was deemed the city's top widening priority in the recent public works report.
Lakin said other city councilors would need to recognize it as having citywide benefits. The street is a major route for residents north of District 8 who use the Creek Turnpike's Yale interchange, he said.
"If it's not (considered separately), there goes my whole allowance, if you will," Lakin said.
"The desire for equality, I understand it. But when we were doing Vision2, nobody sat down with a pen and paper to see what District 8 would get and what District 1 would get.
"I think we've all worked so well together and everybody's big enough and smart enough to understand the limitations we have."
The first Fix Our Streets package collected $452 million from the Third Penny sales tax, the city's share of Tulsa County's former 4 to Fix tax and general obligation bonds. Its renewal would collect more because those funding sources were not available for the entire duration of the first package.
Officials have speculated that $470 million to $670 million of the renewal could be spent on streets. The remainder might go to projects such as park improvements and new fire and police stations, Bynum said.
Original Print Headline: Needs for Fix Our Streets funds vary
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486